Sunday, March 16, 2014

High-performing contributors in Af-Am Literary studies aren't accidental

Briana Whiteside (l) greets Elizabeth Cali at our Toni Morrison exhibit (Feb. 2014).
Every spring as I prepare to pat a graduating grad student on the shoulder for a job well done, I'm inclined to look back and realize that any major individual success story is linked to a series of successes and multi-threaded activities. This May, for instance, we'll congratulate Briana Whiteside on the tremendous job she's done while here.

Cindy Lyles (l), Briana Whiteside, and Danielle Hall (March 2013).

She's been accepted to Ph.D. programs; she's produced 75 blog entries; she's presented at conferences; she's participated in a field study in New York City; she has upcoming publications; she's coordinated dozens of public humanities activities; and she's produced study guides for undergraduates. But even she'll tell you: she would not have been half as productive without the blogging model provided by Emily Phillips and the programming lessons she picked up from her predecessors Danielle Hall and Cindy Lyles.

Cindy Lyles (l) and Danielle Hall preparing exhibit (Sept. 2012)

Cindy Lyles talking with students prior to mixed media exhibit at Combs Elementary School (Sept. 2011).

Danielle Hall talks with students before exhibit at Combs Elementary School (Sept. 2011).

Cindy and Danielle were a dynamic duo on campus of epic proportions. Really. But those two will readily admit that they wouldn't have produced nearly as much if their predecessor Adrienne (Ag) Smith had not provided the crucial blueprint.  Ag was at the helm when we first started coordinating 100 public humanities activities per year.

Adrienne Smith prepares audio devices for exhibit at Woodland Elementary (Feb. 2010)

Adrienne Smith (in center pointing) coordinating our Public Thinking Series (Sept. 2010).

Adrienne Smith talks with students at Woodland Elementary school prior to start of mixed media exhibit (Nov. 2010).

And then, just when you start compliementing Ag about all she accomplished, she reminds you that it would not have been possible without the pioneering work of Marci Daniels, Shelley Wade, Al Henderson, and Tristan Denyer. They collectively produced hundreds of items (blog and newsletter entries, blueprints, audio files, and digital illustrations). Most importantly, they freely shared ideas that fueled our future projects, and they usefully edited my blueprints for what our programming might look like.

Shelley Wade (l) and Marci Daniels at Union Square Park during our Black Studies NYC trip (May 2009).

Shelley Wade studying map for our "Southern Illinois Along the Light Rail" Project (Sept. 2008).

My point in sketching out this genealogy of interrelated network of thinkers and graduate-student coordinators is to indicate the necessity of being deliberate when considering what's possible across time as students enter and graduate from a program. It's also worth remembering that high-performing students do not emerge out of thin air; they are not merely accidental.

The value of cohorts
Daring Moments in NYC, 2009 & 2012 
Black Studies @ SIUE and Graphic Design 
Recruiting Talent, Building Black Studies 

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